The Roar
The Roar

AFL
Advertisement

Richmond must embrace rebuild or risk getting 'mired in mediocrity' - here's how they can do it

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Expert
28th March, 2024
60
3569 Reads

Valiant. Brave. Gutsy.

In footballing parlance, these synonyms tend to be used to describe the efforts of bad teams that are having a crack.

These adjectives have been used for the Tigers at times to start season 2024. Despite the likely grand ideas Adem Yze had when taking over, Richmond is a bottom-four team in the competition this season. They were terrible against the Suns, performed well against the odds against Carlton and had decent moments when hosting Port Adelaide, all teams with finals expectations at the very least.

The effort is mostly there, but the quality and consistency aren’t and the quicker that Yze and his coaching staff embrace the rebuild, the better it will be for everyone.

Between 2017 and 2020, Richmond extracted every bit out of its talent pool and the results were spectacular. Since then, it’s been a steady decline, an inundation of injuries, fluctuations of form and just generally, a sense of success fatigue.

The changing of the guard has been apparent, the new coach has taken over, recruiting manager Matthew Clarke has gone to the Eagles and we’ve already seen opportunities given to some of the team’s youth. Now, it’s fully time to lean into the rebuild in order to accelerate coming out on the other side in a few years’ time, instead of striving for mid-table finishes that’ll mire the club in mediocrity.

Adem Yze.

Adem Yze. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

There aren’t too many fixtures that can be pencilled in as a win for the Tigers this season – they face Sydney, St Kilda, West Coast, Melbourne and Fremantle in their next five contests and will back themselves against the Western Australian teams, at different venues.

Advertisement

All of this is perfectly okay mind you – that four-year stretch was magical and worth the current state of the team. Right now though, Yze needs to lean into the rebuild, as the Tigers have an opportunity in 2024 to boost a list that’s lacking in the type of top-end quality youth that all their competitors seem to have.

Certainly, there are players with good potential and we can expect them to play in the majority of the games this year. It’s incredibly unfortunate that Josh Gibcus will lose a second consecutive season through injury, as the club’s only top-ten pick since 2012.

Perhaps Tyler Sonsie is the face of the high-end potentiality at the Tigers, Kane McAuliffe was a bargain pick in 2023 and has that sort of upside too. Seth Campbell has fit in seamlessly across half-forward and there are others like Judson Clarke, Tom Brown, James Tresize and Sam Banks that are obvious long-term pieces, among other names.

It’s important for Richmond fans to draw a line when it comes to the trade/free agency period and not dwell too much on the past. In particular, the ‘lost gamble’ for Tim Taranto and more pertinently, Jacob Hopper, involving the movement of future firsts can easily be ostracised.

Jordan De Goey breaks away from an attempted tackle by Dion Prestia.

Jordan De Goey breaks away from an attempted tackle by Dion Prestia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Those players didn’t join the club to go back down to the bottom of the ladder – whether they usher in the new generation or seek different avenues forward in the future remains to be seen.

Liam Baker and Shai Bolton are demanding attention from WA teams for trade and contract pickups, Nathan Broad falls in that bracket too. Dustin Martin might be nearing the end, Dion Prestia’s all but gone one way or another, as is Dylan Grimes.Ultimately, the Tigers are in a position where they’ll need to make decisions moving forward and it’s time to be decisive in them.

Advertisement

A full-on cull never works, hello North Melbourne, but backing in the right guys to lead the younger generation forward is key to making a rebuild work.

As things stand, Richmond has one first-round pick, two second-round picks, three third-round picks and three fourth-round picks. On paper, it mightn’t be the most appealing hand, but there’s genuine potential for this to turn into a significant year for the Tigers to improve their list.

Baker’s decision will be his alone. He’ll be worth whatever contract he demands and is likely a future captain if the Tigers are able to keep him, but if his heart is set on heading home, a trade should be able to be negotiated to improve Richmond’s draft hand.

Player movements aside though, 2024 is a year where the Tigers will attack the draft. Brisbane and Carlton will need to collect points for father/son picks, there’s potential for Gold Coast and Port Adelaide to be interested in later picks too.This was the intention of Clarke who, before leaving the club, ensured that there’d be opportunities for the Tigers to attract one or even two more first-round picks in 2024.

They own their first-round pick which is important, as it’ll almost certainly come in the top five. It’s way too early to be able to predict the top end of the draft, other than to say that it’s small midfielders currently dominating discussion while the bigger bodies and talls will be given time to work into it this season.

Crucially though, this looms as a draft with a number of key forwards in the top-25 range overall, which indicates an intentionality in the timing of possessing a strong draft hand for the Tigers. If Noah Balta is swung back into defence as he arguably should, that end is covered and securing midfield and key forward talent can be the focus of the recruitment team.

Advertisement

One would think it’d be good to lean into that line of thinking when playing out this entire season. If the Tigers believe they’ll focus on key forwards in the draft, playing undermanned offensively this season can help shore up their defensive structure while almost guaranteeing they finish towards the bottom of the ladder.

The obvious example comes from the NBA, where the Oklahoma City Thunder had their target, a centre in the form of Chet Holmgren and with that in mind, played a heavy centre-less rotation until he was drafted, then ready to return from injury. Slotting in serviceable players in the role allows for tactical development for the existing group, then adding in the key player immediately boosts the team into the upper echelon; OKC’s rebuild went from being one of the worst teams in the NBA two seasons ago to being a contender this year.

Yze mightn’t have all the talent he wants at the moment, but what he does have is the personnel to start curating his desired tactical makeup and educating his players, while getting Richmond access to as much talent as they can. That, ultimately, is what 2024 is all about at Tigerland.

It’s admirable to be competitive, to show great spirit and the heart that will gain the respect of many. As true as it may end up being throughout the season though, it simply cannot be the defining characteristic of a team before their rebuild begins.

The Richmond Football Club has entered rebuild mode and the quicker it’s embraced, the better it’ll be.

Advertisement
close